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New Trend Is Old-Fashioned Rudeness

Judith Martin United Features Sy

Dear Miss Manners: My daughter, who is in college, e-mailed me to say that she’d had an enjoyable weekend visit at her roommate’s home, except that her roommate’s new sister-in-law involved them in a thank-you-note “party.” She wanted them to help her write thank yous for her wedding gifts.

Because my daughter was a guest, she went along with this “party,” albeit reluctantly. I would hate to think that a gift I picked out for someone was answered by a bride like this one. Is this a new trend or just an aberration?

Gentle Reader: Both. The new trend consists of inventing aberrations instead of following the established etiquette of the society.

Miss Manners wouldn’t mind so much if these were attempts to change etiquette to make life more pleasant for everyone. That is her task, and she appreciates suggestions.

But she can’t help noticing that without exception, all of these changes are designed to enable the person who designed them to get out of a social duty; the question of the effect this might have on other people is never considered.

In this case, your daughter’s roommate’s sister-in-law was perfectly happy to sacrifice the feelings of people who were kind enough to send her presents and the recreational time of a guest in the household.

Miss Manners can see no difference between this invention and old-fashioned rudeness.

Dear Miss Manners: I am a 14-year-old eighth grader at a Catholic school. Comments have been made from the teachers regarding what is “socially acceptable” for romantic relations involving eighth-grade students (a boy and a girl). I ask for your help in finding out the truth for what the students should be allowed to do on school grounds or anywhere.

I would also like to know how old kids should be before they should become involved in romantic relations. Many students in my class have done things not considered to be acceptable on and off school grounds. These students have been caught by concerned teachers and parents. I seek your expertise in solving this dilemma.

Gentle Reader: Solving the dilemma of boys and girls wanting to do things they shouldn’t do?

Miss Manners appreciates your confidence in her. But she is afraid that even she cannot settle such an eternally troublesome aspect of life. What she can do is to talk about rules to contain behavior.

No romantic behavior whatsoever is socially acceptable at school for anyone of any age. It would not even be socially acceptable for happily married staff members to exhibit romantic behavior at school, or, indeed, in any other setting where people have come to work.

Public areas, such as sidewalks, shops and just about anywhere else your classmates might have been caught other than at home, come under the jurisdiction of public social standards. In some places these are lax, but generally, hand-holding and the occasional quick kiss or hug is all that is tolerated.

What teen-agers do unseen is a question of morals, rather than manners, and is therefore under the jurisdiction of their parents. Naturally, this is infinitely harder to control. And it is more effectively done by teaching standards and encouraging confidences than by snooping.

Unfortunately, many parents use these techniques to abandon their moral standards - encouraging confidences by a policy of never “passing judgment,” and then adjusting their requirements to meet “what they’re doing anyway.” Miss Manners has never cared for the If You Can’t Teach Them, Join Them school of non-parenting.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Judith Martin United Features Syndicate

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